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"Everyone’s path is different and people can be affected in a variety of ways which change over time, and even from day to day."

Who are you and what is your role at Age UK Sheffield?

I’m Laura Morley and I’m the Retail Development Officer at Age UK Sheffield. I’m overseeing the opening and running of our first charity shops which will raise funds directly for our work supporting older people. Our first shop at Bradway is due to open in the next month or so.

There can be a lot of misconceptions and sometimes even stigma surrounding dementia. What do you think is the most common misconception? Conversely, what do you think the first thing that people hoping to understand more about dementia should know?

A misconception and that their situation is hopeless and a diagnosis becomes a countdown to being placed in a home. In fact, people with dementia and other memory loss can continue to be active and engaged for many years. Everyone’s path is different and people can be affected in a variety of ways which change over time, and even from day to day.
The first thing that people should bear in mind is that people with dementia are still people, as deserving of respect and compassion as anyone else.

Age UK Sheffield runs the Wellbeing Centre, a day centre specifically for people in Sheffield who have mild to moderate dementia or memory loss. When you first visited the Centre, what was your initial impression?

My first impression was of a warm, welcoming, friendly place. The people using the centre were always treated with respect and never talked down to, patronised or rushed. The atmosphere was positive and inclusive, with a range of different activities for everyone in to get involved in together.

Do you have any thoughts or advice from your experience of supporting people with dementia?

If you are supporting someone with dementia, don’t forget to look after yourself. Check the services available in your area – you may have more options of dementia friendly spaces to enjoy, either together or as respite, than you realise.

Are there any changes that you can think of in your local area that could be made to make Sheffield a more age friendly place to live?

This isn’t Sheffield specific, but an increasingly digitised world can lead to older people being left behind or forgotten. The replacement of face-to-face services, such as banks and ticket booths, with internet only options disproportionately affects the older population. Companies should be made to take the impact of withdrawing services on older and vulnerable populations more seriously and work together to reduce these problems. This should work in tandem with offering older people lessons in computer, internet and other technology use should they want them. Too often older people’s perspectives aren’t included simply because they aren’t part of the (online) conversation.